November CIPA report: system camera shipments down again compared to last year

CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association in Japan) published their November report. The downturn continues - the number of shipped interchangeable lens digital cameras is lower compared to the same month of last year (orange: 2017, black: 2016, blue: 2015, click for larger view). The table with the actual numbers can be found here (click for larger view):

Here are the other two graphs:

List of participating CIPA companies can be found here.

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  • mastix

    I am not surprised. Advanced and pro camera systems and their lenses are becoming more and more expensive. That goes for micro 4/3 aps and full frame. People don’t have infinite resources as manufacturer think.

    • And the improvements are marginal compared to previous versions.

    • Narretz

      You have this at least partially backwards. The numbers are not improving because the market for entry level cameras is getting decimated by camera phones for years now. Because of that, the companies move to less-volume+higher-profit cameras – advanced and pro cameras to offset the missing volume sales.
      This isn’t mainly about people that don’t buy cameras because they are too expensive, this is about people that don’t buy cameras because they are fine with their phone cameras.

      • Azmodan

        I agree, but their has been a deliberate policy of higher margins from manufacturers, especially Olympus. Their prices have risen dramatically, and it doesn’t’t help them. It’s an optimisation problem, but there’s price point below which sales will increase dramatically and you are better off selling 1000 @ $999 than 500 @ $1599, you bottom line is better. Given also that cameras are getting so good, and people won’t upgrade for many years, raising prices might seem a good idea for them, but psychologically it puts off many new entrants to the market and makes you want to hold on even longer to your camera before upgrading. It’s a catch 22 and the manufacturers need to break the cycle.

    • Zeneize

      Definitely. To online shills – sorry, I meant expert reviewers, prices never seem to matter. They do matter to me, rest assured!
      One mistake tho: there have never been pro micro 43 cameras.

  • animalsbybarry

    Nikon cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room

    Overall system camera sales continue to plummet (despite the success of the D850)
    DSLR sales continue to plummet.

    And Nikon Mirrorless is nowhere to be seen !!!!!

    • Oh now mirrorless remain stable? I thought they were growing… when the tech is good enough, Nikon will release their mirrorless camera, I can assure you about that.

      • Adam Brown

        Both…. With the entire market shrinking — if mirrorless sales stay approximately even, while dSLR sales shrink… then you get growing mirrorless market share.

        • My point was that they were not shrinking before as far as I remember. Now they are while a DSLR camera was selected as the camera of the year by pretty much all online sites. Still waiting on that mirrorless to take over the world. Have been waiting for 10 years and still nothing. Just making some observations and sharing some facts with you. The way I see it mirrorless is not there yet and it won’t be for a while. We can only guess what will happen in the future.

          • Adam Brown

            The camera of the year by pretty much all?
            Lol… I have to call you on that. The D850 did indeed deservedly win many accolades… but those accolades seem split almost 50/50 with Sony. Tony Northrup, Matt Granger, many others went with Sony. Dpreview gave it a tie. Digital trends and some others went with the a9.
            But I think a good statement of the present and future came from Chris Nichols, to summarize his conclusion, he picked the D850 because even though it’s a close call… even though the Sony might be better, he sentimentally wanted to pick a dslr one last time, as he doubted dslrs will be the winners in the future.
            I don’t know exactly what the future holds. The line between dslr and mirrorless isn’t as clear cut as it would seem. In many ways, Canon dslrs are hybrids now — in the sense that live view in essentially a mirrorless mode and they are designed to take advantage of it.
            So maybe that will be a dominant product of the future — maybe we will eventually get hybrid EVF/OVFs too.
            But there is a realistic chance that the D850 is the last of its kind. A realistic chance that it’s successor will be mirrorless or hybrid.

          • Adam Brown

            As I said — the D850 has won many accolades but not “almost all”
            Even personally, even though I opted for the a7riii over the D850 for my personal use scenario, I’d probably call camera of the year a tie with very different strengths and weaknesses.
            The weather sealing on the a7riii holds it back from a clear win — a $3000+ camera really should be better sealed.
            And IMO, the slow live view AF holds back the D850 from a clear win. It’s 2018– live view should be completely usable for video, for action, for continuous AF.

          • It’s not only the weather sealing. Now it seems that IBIS was also not that good of an idea – Panasonic removed it from their latest GH5s model. But I agree with you – Nikon is not the best option for video. It never was even though they were the first to introduce video with the D90.

          • Adam Brown

            I’m just giving you my opinion of the difference makers.
            And I LOVE the IBIS — a big advantage of the Sony, but not *the* difference maker since you can mostly get stabilized lenses for Nikon (but in many cases, driving up the weight and price). I can’t speak for Panasonic, but IBIS isn’t exactly new for Sony… they have been doing it for about 13 years now, ever since they got into the dSLR market. (it’s somewhat new for the e-mount system)
            Of course the D850 has many advantages, but many of them are more minor or more subjective.
            OVF preference — pretty subjective
            Longer battery life — but the Sony is finally “good enough” and won’t be an issue for most people.
            More lens selection — But outside of exotic telephoto lenses, Sony can largely match Nikon, in many cases with superior quality glass
            Cheaper lenses — but really only with Tamron/Sigma lenses. Nikon branded lenses aren’t really any cheaper than Sony branded lenses.
            Better ergonomics — But this is somewhat subjective, and easily out weighed (for me and many others) by the 1 pound weight difference. I’m willing to sacrifice a tiny bit of ergonomics to save an entire pound.
            There are some IQ advantages — true ISO 64, slightly more resolution… but this balances against the Sony IQ advantages like better dynamic range and noise performance at higher ISO.
            Nikon D850 has some features wholly missing from Sony but none are game changers — built in intervalometer, focus bracketing, lossless raw compression, sRaw, mRaw…. But then Sony can counter with features they have missing in the Nikon — truly silent full resolution burst shooting, pixel shift, eye-AF, etc.

            So there are lots of smaller things or more subjective things… could go back and forth for hours. But looking at the big objective differences: I come down to significantly better weather sealing in the Nikon and significantly better live view and video AF in the Sony.
            Almost everything else is either very close or simply a subjective trade off (better ergonomics or shaving off a pound…. an AF system that might be a little better at action tracking vs an AF system that can precisely quickly identify the eye and track it, 1 camera having more dynamic range at low ISO vs the other camera having more dynamic range at mid and higher ISO, etc).

            Having shot with both systems in the last few years, and having tried and nearly purchased the D850….. I almost think it’s silly to argue about which camera is better. They both do a whole lot of things spectacularly. They both have the best image quality you can get in a full frame camera. They both have cutting edge autofocus systems that leave older AF systems in the dust. And where they differ significantly, they both have strengths and weaknesses.

          • Like I said already, it’s a personal choice and is good to have options. The things that are subjective to you are pretty clear and a big deal for me. I just don’t see how the dead of the DSLR is good news for anyone – as consumers, we want to have more choices, not less.

          • Adam Brown

            They are subjectively a big deal to you 😉
            Yes — I agree, more choices are good. Death of dSLR (if it does occur) is not good.
            But in the end, we are in a contracting market. Samsung was making some very promising mirrorless cameras — their NX1 was the closest aps-c mirrorless to great dSLR-like ergonomics. But they left the market. Sony’s A-mount barely has a pulse. Nikon’s “1” system doesn’t even have a pulse, the body is just waiting to be buried. And their DL system never even got born.

            So we are in a contracting market which can support fewer choices. The camera makers are trying to find ways to maintain profits in a smaller market. Sony and Nikon have pursued a similar strategy here: focus more on the big margin high end products. But Nikon especially has been very evident in their cost cutting. Part of what makes the D850 special is they didn’t blatantly cheapen any part of it. But you look at the D7500, you see very clear and conscious cost cutting measures.

            Meanwhile, the capabilities of mirrorless and dSLR are starting to converge. Once you take out R&D costs, mirrorless is cheaper to produce and repair (fewer moving parts).

            So let’s look at the natural expected progression of capabilities over the next few years….. Eventually, A9 type tech will filter down to $500 cameras, but it is incompatible with dSLR (can’t have a blackout free viewfinder in a dSLR, an impossibility). Eventually, mirrorless won’t even need a mechanical shutter, really cutting down on costs.

            So let’s look 5 years into the future….. Nikon has 2 models they can release, a D860.. or a M860… They use identical sensors… while they use different primary AF systems, they are both virtually identical in their ability to track action, etc… They use the same body and the same ergonomics.. So the ONLY differences are listed below:
            D860 .75 OVF. M860: .78 EVF with 240fps refresh rate
            D860: 10fps with OVF , short black out between shots. M860: 20 fps and 0 blackout viewfinder
            D860: Af coverage over about 40% of frame. M860: AF coverage over 90% of frame.
            D860: Quiet shooting modes but not absolutely silent without using live view. M860: Absolute silent shooting.
            D860: Improved automatic micro adjustment to reduce focal shift issues, etc. M860: No need for micro adjustment, no focus shift issues
            D860 — finally a really good video AF, but only in live view. M860– video in VF or in live view.
            D860: shutter and mirror further improved to minimize vibration. M860: 0 vibration.
            D860: 2000 shot battery. M860: 1000 shot battery.
            D860: $3500, with 30% Nikon profit margin. M860: $3200 with 40% Nikon profit margin.

            I think this is a very realistic scenario….. which of these 2 choices are consumers more likely to want? Which will Nikon prefer to sell?
            Would Nikon give consumers both options? Maybe for 1 generation… but for how long would they continue to give both options?

          • Zeneize

            I must tell you, really: Nichols, Northrup, Granger et al are a bunch of smart arses, trying to make a living with marketing.

    • monocolor

      It also could be that people are happy or ‘stuck’ with their D5x00 (all relatively similar), D7200, D610, or D750 and Nikon hasn’t really offered a distinct updates over them yet in their respective product lanes.

      I think the DSLR design is so mature that we won’t see a lot of movement in that side of the market.

      mirrorless, on the other hand, is still a very young technology (well EVF, AF, and body design) to the point it isn’t difficult to get significant improvements on performance and experience. So we see people discarding yesterday’s mirrorless to get the next latest and greatest.

      In another 7-10 years perhaps mirrorless systems will have matured similarly to DSLRs today and we will see a slowdown in sales there as well.

      • RodneyKilo

        That’s really an excellent observation. There is quite possibly less churn among DSLR owners of those models.
        Higher end mirrorless camera owners may well have more churn, as enthusiasts are not afraid to buy up to the latest model, and more readily justify it to themselves.
        In other words, the next question is who really is responsible for the sales numbers- net newcomers to the hobby, or those simply keeping up with the latest release?
        And we may be seeing the effects of that, with most releases becoming more and more minor feature upgrades, with photographic result improvements that none of our relatives or friends are able to see, even when we point it out to them.
        Hence repeat sales run out of steam because, why?
        Which means the last 8 or 10 years is the real anomaly, and we are simply now returning to run rate sales. (I don’t necessarily believe this, but would prefer that this was the explanation!)

      • Adam Brown

        While there is some truth to your analysis, much more is going on.
        -You have all levels of the photography market shrinking — You simply have fewer people who want stand-alone cameras, and that includes standalone ILC cameras, whether they are mirrorless or dSLR.
        -You’re correct that because it is a younger technology, there is a greater degree of advancement in each upgrade, as opposed to dSLR. But the effect isn’t just mirrorless owners upgrading. It also invites more switchers. Quite simply, dSLRs aren’t getting all that much better. The D850 is a pretty significant upgrade over the D810, but can it really do much that the D810 couldn’t do? For the most part, it does the same things but a little bit better. Autofocus works in the same way, just a bit faster. It’s a big deal that the D850 can shoot 7 fps and 9 fps with grip… but without the grip, that’s only a change from 5 fps to 7 fps and with a bigger buffer. Meanwhile, mirrorless has been adding new features and refinements that are surpassing the capability of dSLR. Take something like the blackout free EVF of the A9… right now, it’s only present in a $4500 body, so not exactly market disrupting. But in a few years, when every mirrorless camera, even for $400, has a blackout free viewfinder… that will become a huge edge over all dSLRs, where all dSLRs will still have blackouts. Yes, mirrorless will eventually hit full maturity, and then the advancements will slow down. But by the time that happens, they will likely be so far ahead of the dSLR market.. that dSLRs will be gone either completely or mostly.
        -So I have no question that the full camera market will continue to shrink. And mirrorless system sales will slow….. but they will also control most (if not all) of the ILC market share.

  • RodneyKilo

    For most of the year it appears 2017 shipments tracked steadily at, or just above, 2016 levels. The difference is shipments in anticipation of year end holidays.
    Could it not be the manufacturers deliberately produced and shipped a smaller volume of product toward the end of the year, so as not to be stuck with an inventory overhang yet another year, or so as not to force their retailers to be stuck with a large unsold inventory at the end of another year?
    What would really help determine this are sales numbers, not just shipment numbers. With only shipment out numbers (and without netting against dealer returns), we have to engage in a certain amount of actual point of sale guesswork.
    That being said, cameras are way too expensive, are way more expensive even allowing for inflation than they were when the hobby really flourished (60s, 70s, 80s). And in those days there was no problem at all in keeping a camera for years and years…. and even after that the camera still retained an acceptable residual value, to help fuel future purchases. Today we have overpriced new models, with residual values in the basement. Who can afford that merry go round indefinitely, despite the cry of online reviewers that this new model is a must-have (what else are they ever going to say?).

    • Les

      I don’t think you realize how expensive cameras were in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Buying an SLR was a sign that you were “serious” about photography, because it cost two to three times as much as a Rebel would today, in relative terms.

      We are slowly getting back to that market. There’s a whole range of mirrorless cameras for beginners. A few will move up to SLRs if they get serious.
      Smartphone cameras are “good enough” for the vast majority, like the 110s, Discs, and Instamatics that preceded them.

      • RodneyKilo

        Easy enough to find out. No need to take my word for it.

        Here are some examples, with original New York USD discount prices as can be seen in old photo mag ads, and using the US governments CPI inflation equivalent calculator for 2018:

        Olympus OM1- top of the line full frame body with 50mm Olympus Zuiko, 135mm off-brand lens, accessories: Original price $220, 2018 inflation: $1320

        Minolta (Sony photo predecessor) SRT-101 – top of the line full frame body with 50mm Minolta Rokkor, 135mm off-brand lens, accessories: Original price $220, 2018 inflation: $1320

        Hasselblad 800CM, top medium format w/80mm Zeiss lens, waist level, 120 back: Original price $800 2018 inflation: $3288

        Nikon F2 Photomic body only (Nikon’s top of the line professional level full frame camera) Original price $340, 2018 inflation: $1397

        Nikon FE2 body (Nikon’s highest level “advanced amateur” full frame, compact, tough metal body) Original price $219, 2018 inflation: $523

        Leica M6 body (Leica’s top of the line professional full frame rangefinder) Original price $1900, 2018 inflation: $3466

        Takeaway: An enthusiast’s dollar went much further in the heyday of the hobby. AND they could recover much more of the camera’s value when selling it a few years later. It was noticeably more affordable then.

  • Mirrorless will replace DSLRs – I’ve been hearing this for 10 years now. When is this finally going to happen so you can relax? I don’t think many people care about that – get what you like and whatever works for you, stop worrying about what will happen in 20 years from now.

    • Adam Brown

      I heard that ebooks were going to put the big book stores out of business. Heard it for years… then overnight, it started happening.

      You eventually get to a tipping point. Mirrorless is now close to 40% of the ILC market — and that’s with Nikon not even in the game, and Canon only partially in the game.

      If in 2018, Canon produces a full frame mirrorless (as rumored) and Nikon gets serious about mirrorless (as rumored), then mirrorless will probably take over 50% by 2018-2019.

      Meanwhile, Canon and Nikon users will have the option of transitioning to mirrorless without changing brands. So many people have chosen not to switch because of the associated cost — but if they can truly keep all their Canon/Nikon lenses… and as those mirrorless cameras get cheaper and more feature-rich…(when you can get an a9 blackout free viewfinder in a $500 mirrorless… but not in any dslr.. )

      My guesstimate — mirrorless is 80% or more of the ILC market within 5 years, by 2023.

  • Narek Avetisyan

    Makes sense. Because of a shortage Nikon had with the D850. We sold very few of them here in Greece at a major photostore that I work at.
    So I’m not very surprised at the numbers.

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